Huskers Struggle Down Stretch in Loss to Purdue

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight game, the Huskers found themselves with an opportunity to pick up a much needed win in conference play. And for the second straight game, the Huskers were not able to make the plays in crunch time to pick up the win falling to Purdue 70-64.

The Huskers were desperate for a win. They battled all game long.  Whenever Purdue would go on a spurt to take a four point lead, the Huskers would respond with one of their own.  Time and time again they answered. In the middle of the second half, they switched to a zone.  Purdue struggled against it.  The Boilermakers turned it over at one stretch seven times in eight possessions. They had Purdue on the ropes. The last of those turnovers came on a steal by Tai Webster who went in for the uncontested layup to give the Huskers a 57-55 lead with 7:16 to go in the game.  Terran Petteway, as part of his team high 19 points would hit a free throw the next possession to build the Huskers biggest lead of the game. Before a couple of Petteway buckets in the waning seconds of the game, the Huskers would not score again.

In the Big Ten conference, the difference between winning games like this and the game vs. Michigan is small.  Maddeningly so, at times.  Make no mistake about it, Purdue did not play well today for much of the game either. This was a game the Huskers could, and perhaps even should have won.

“We did a lot of things to win this basketball game,” Coach Tim Miles said on his post game radio show, “but to not have the discipline and composure to make the plays to do it, that’s the disappointing part.”

“I’m not worried about a crisis of confidence,” he continued, “what I hope is they’re gaining an understanding of exactly the effort it takes mentally and physically...to be successful and to win

“Any small mistake really can make you pay (in the Big Ten). Any series of errors like we saw, you’re not going to survive that.”

The fateful stretch for the Huskers in this one began with 3:15 to go in the game. Trailing only by three 61-58, Shavon Shields was fouled on his way to the basket.  He missed both free throws. They turned it over their next two possessions and saw the stretch capped with a wild off-balance three point attempt from Ray Gallegos that wasn’t within five feet of going in.  The Boilermakers stretched their lead to six in that time and as much as 8 shortly thereafter.  The Huskers never recovered.

For the third time in as many seasons, the Huskers start conference play at 0-4.  It’s not going to get any easier as #3 Ohio State is up next after an eight day break for Big Red to stew on these past two. The Huskers faced Buckeyes on Jan 4. in Columbus and fell 84-53.

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